How To Fix Smelly Shoes - COMUNITYmade


How To Fix Smelly Shoes

How To Fix Smelly Shoes

by Shannon Scott September 30, 2022

Removing that "not-so-pleasant" smell from your shoes...As if. “Not-so-pleasant” might be the understatement of all time. If your shoes have a merely not-so-pleasant smell, then this article is for you. On the other hand, if your shoes are about to be categorized as toxic waste, get ready to take copious notes. Either way, you’re in the right place.

What makes shoes stink?

Your feet, honey. Next question.

Why your hands can stink as badly as your feet

This is an unfortunate fact about our biology. As humans, our hands and feet are very similar. The skin on the bottom of our feet is practically identical to the skin on the palm side of our hands. We all have toe-prints that are as unique as our fingerprints. According to UC San Diego Health, the average person has approximately 125,000 sweat glands – per foot! On average, the number of sweat glands on your hands is not much lower. All this sweat promotes the growth of bacteria. So, like most of us who harbor a chemical stew on our feet, chances are your hands harbor the same bacteria et al., too. If you doubt this, try an experiment. For days on end, place your hands in a dark, warm, and moist environment like tight-fitting gloves that don’t breathe, and then exercise them vigorously. When you’re finished, take a whiff if you dare. You might want to make sure to be alone when this happens.

Why cheese smells like your feet

Let’s be clear. Not all cheese smells like stinky feet, and not all feet smell like cheese. However, many of us can attest to the peculiar pungency wafting up from our shoes. Science has finally discovered what many of us have suspected for a long time. The chemical soup that makes cheese stink is the exact same chemicals that make our shoes stink. According to Barefoot Scientist, the brevibacteria that are suspected of causing our feet to stink also give Limburger, Port Salut, and Munster cheese their distinctive smell. Methanethiol is what gives cheddar cheese all its flavor, and it’s also the same chemical produced by the bacteria found on our feet. So, what about feet that smell more like cabbage and vinegar? Well, we can thank the billions of bacteria on our feet that produce the same butyric, acetic, and propionic acids that can be found in cheese. Yum.

Remember Kevin Kline Smelling Jamie Lee Curtis’ Boot In A Fish Called Wanda?

In the 1988 film A Fish Called WandaKevin Kline plays Otto and Jamie Lee Curtis plays Wanda. At one point, Otto picks up one of Wanda’s boots and clasps it onto his face like Darth Vader’s respirator. If that’s you and everyone you know, fine. You don’t need to worry about getting rid of the smell in your shoes. If not, read on.

How a 15-year-old girl won the smelliest shoe contest

Every year, Odor Eaters hosts the Rotten Sneaker Contest. In 2019, 15-year-old Senneca Slocombe from Eagle River, Alaska, took the top prize. She was able to out-stink everyone else with a pair of sneakers she wore for just two years while running and playing sports. An extraordinary feat by all accounts.

According to Odor Eaters, the judging panel included Nasa “Master Sniffer” George Aldrich, Chemical Specialist for Nasa space missions, Rachel Herz, Ph.D., an expert and author on the psychology of smell, and Buck Wolf from the Huffington Post. Gas masks were not supplied.

How to measure the odor

Yes, it is possible. And there are indeed a variety of ways:

  • OLFACTOMETER - Scientists use a device to measure something called odor dilution. The stinkier the shoes, the higher the concentration of odor.
  • DO YOU HAVE ANY FRIENDS? – Although it’s difficult to prove a causal relationship between how bad your shoes stink and how many friends you have, the correlation is undeniable.
  • DOES YOUR DOG FALL OVER? – Take notice of your dog’s behavior. If they scrunch up their nose when they go near your shoes, you’re probably a seven on the stink scale. If they actually fall over and need to be revived, that’s a solid eleven.

Shoes that breathe can reduce odor buildup

At COMUNITYmade, we use the finest, natural leather to handcraft our shoes as well as other plant based materials that don't absorb bacteria and odors. Leather naturally breathes, and this cuts down on the amount of moisture/sweat trapped in your shoes. We also used other materials that allow the inflow and outflow of air to keep your feet as comfortable as possible such as our technical knits made from RPET. Happy and dry feet don’t smell up the place or your shoes.

How to reduce the smell in your shoes

Buy shoes that have plenty of ventilation built in. This will reduce the amount of moisture that builds up, and it will help the shoes dry out more quickly. The better the airflow in and out of your shoes, the less likely they will smell.

  • VINEGAR – Good old white vinegar in a spray bottle can help. You can also mix in a bit of warm water and use a damp cloth. Add a spritz or two or ten; when you first take off your shoes and put them somewhere, they can air dry.
  • SHOE ROTATION – Try your best not to wear any pair of shoes for longer than a day. Wear a different pair the next day and let the first pair of shoes dry out for a day or longer.
  • ALWAYS WEAR FRESH, ABSORBENT SOCKS – You might even want to change your socks midway through the day to help keep your shoes dry. Some socks are impregnated with chemicals to reduce odor and prevent stinky shoes.
  • UV LIGHT FOR YOUR SHOES – See an example here. These devices slip into your shoes and then shine UV light on the inside of your shoes to get rid of the bacteria that causes odor.
  • RUBBING ALCOHOL – Same as vinegar. A spray or two in each shoe will help kill bacteria and help dry out your shoes.
  • DRYER SHEETS – Stuff each shoe with a couple of dryer sheets, reducing the bad odor. Powdered laundry detergent can work, too, if you put it in a nylon stocking so that it doesn’t spill out.
  • CHARCOAL BRIQUETS – Lump charcoal can work too, so long as you put it in a sock first. Charcoal will naturally draw out the excess moisture and the bad odors.
  • BAR OF SOAP – This is an easy one, and it will last a long, long time. Just remember, it must be a dry and unused bar of soap. Some people find essential oils can work the same way.
  • FLAMETHROWER – Be careful with this one. The stench from your shoes might be so bad that putting them next to an open flame might cause spontaneous combustion. Yes, you’ll finally get rid of the stink and just about everything else you value.

How to clean the outside of your shoes

Once your shoes smell fresh on the inside, you might want to learn how to clean the outside.

  1. Use a soft cloth to dust off several types of shoes.
  2. Use a suede brush to clean off your leather suede shoes.
  3. With canvas shoes and running shoes, you can spot clean with a bit of baking soda and vinegar.
  4. A bit of Windex can do wonders with scuff marks and dirt.
  5. Dawn dish soap mixed with some warm water can be used to gently scrub the shoe upper. Make sure to air dry your shoes once you’re happy with the cleaning.


(Blog thumbnail credit: Freepik)

Shannon Scott
Shannon Scott


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Find Your Perfect Size

We want to help make sure that your new shoes have the best fit possible.  

We have created a separate fit for men and women to provide the ultimate foot hugging comfort.  Our sockliner and upper materials will naturally mold to your foot and stretch out after a short period of time, so do allow for this when trying our shoes on initially.


 In general, our shoes are running closer to an everyday shoe fit vs. an athletic shoe fit and can be worn with or without socks - but the socks have to be eye catching for best results.


Any variances from this chart will be noted on each individual product page.